Wine Snobs: Justified by Science, Sort Of

Fluid mechanics explain the workings of your cab franc.
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Video: Dan Quinn; GIF: Megan Garber

Have you ever described a wine as "chewy"? Have you ever swirled that wine in a glass, then plunged your nose into the bowl to take in the bouquet? Have you ever examined a wine's legs? I have done two of the three of these things, which means, basically, that I am two-thirds of an enormous jerk. But I am also, in my way, a bold sojourner into the field of scientific inquiry. Because wine snobbery has a purpose, and that purpose is science

Dan Quinn is a graduate student at Princeton who studies fluid mechanics. He made the video below, which explains why wine, when it's swirled, clings to the glass that contains it, then drips back down to gorgeous and occasionally hypnotic effect. The wine's Chihulian appearance has to do, basically, with liquid's surface tension. And with evaporation. And with gravity. 

Quinn's take doubles as a charming, if only partial, explanation of why wine snobs swirl and sniff and sip the way they do: The wine's "crying"—its liquid legs—relates to its alcohol content. So, science! Sort of! Though if you've ever described a wine as "chewy" ... that one's on you.

Via, obviously, Robert Krulwich

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Megan Garber is a staff writer at The Atlantic. She was formerly an assistant editor at the Nieman Journalism Lab, where she wrote about innovations in the media.

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